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2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (JAN.7)

The BCS National Championship should be a good one this year with traditional college football powers Alabama and Notre Dame playing for the title. The Crimson Tide are looking to cement their legacy as a college football dynasty with their third National Championship in the last four years, while the Irish are looking to be back on top of the college football world with their first title since 1988. As they do every year, Alabama will have a number of NFL prospects on display for front offices, scouts and fans to see with up to 12 possible draft choices led by the likes of Dee Milliner, Chance Warmack and Jesse Williams. The Irish will counter with a decent class of their own featuring potential first round picks Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert. This game is definitely one to watch.

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (12-1)

Ever since Nick Saban took over the Alabama football program, the Crimson Tide have continually sent fantastic draft classes to the NFL, often laden with elite first round prospects.  This year is no different as the Crimson Tide boasts another stacked group of draft-eligible players featuring multiple top-100 prospects including first-round locks CB Dee Milliner (Jr) and OG Chance Warmack (Sr). Milliner is far and away the top rated cornerback for the 2013 NFL Draft and one of the very top prospects as well. He was incredible and nearly unbeatable for the Tide this year in amassing 20 passes defended, 18 pass break-ups, 2 picks, 51 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He’s a shutdown cover corner with the ability to close down the outside in run support. He possesses the size, speed and strength to match elite wide receivers, although his ball skills could still use some work to turn some of those pass break-ups into turnovers. There’s no doubt he will be the first corner selected in the draft and could very well crack the top ten picks. Warmack is the best prospect on Alabama’s incredibly talented offensive line that will send three players to the NFL draft. He’s a mammoth wrecking machine that may be the most dominant guard prospect in a long time. He mauls defenders when run-blocking and is just about as good in pass-protection. He’s extremely light on his feet for a man his size which allows him to get to the second-level when run-blocking and continue to open up massive running lanes for his ball-carrier. He’s one of the very best prospects in the entire draft and should be a first round pick, but because of the lower value placed on his position he could fall into the later portion of the round much the same way Stanford’s highly-rated David DeCastro did in last year’s draft. Joining Warmack in the draft from Alabama’s All-American offensive line is RT D.J. Fluker (rJr) and OL Barrett Jones (rSr). Like Warmack, Fluker is a dominant run-blocker with great size and power that possesses the ability to destroy opposing defensive linemen and linebackers.  Some polishing is still needed in his game, but he is one of the best right tackle prospects just behind Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and should be selected on Day 2. Jones is the leader of the Crimson Tide line and arguably the most versatile offensive lineman in the draft. Throughout his college career, Jones has displayed the ability to play a high level at left tackle (2011 Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s top offensive lineman), center (2012 Rimington Award winner as the nation’s top center) and at guard where he played his first two seasons and was named to 2010 AP All-American Third-Team. He’s an intelligent, max-effort player with fantastic fundamentals and excellent leadership. He should have a long, productive NFL career and could come off the board in the third round. It wouldn’t be an Alabama draft class without a dominant defensive lineman or top running back. As a former Australian rugby player, DT Jesse Williams (Sr) is a highly interesting prospect that possesses intriguing athletic ability and excellent versatility. He’s a huge defender with a low center of gravity and absolutely incredible strength (600lb. bench press). He is impossible to stop at the point of attack and has the power to dominate double-teams, while still possessing the speed to play on the outside and rush the passer. He can be used at every position on the defensive line in multiple schemes. As good as he is already he’s still improving at a rapid pace after only picking up football at the age of 15 and has a very high ceiling. He could be taken anywhere from the mid-first round to as late as the early third, but should come off the board somewhere in between. He could easily be one of the steals of the draft. RB Eddie Lacy (rJr) is the next in the long line of talented running backs to come out of Alabama. He’s a well-built power back with the ability to bulldoze his way through the middle while keeping his legs moving and breaking tackles. He’s a reliable ball-handler and has the potential to be a feature back on first and second downs in the NFL. He’s arguably the top draft-eligible running back for the 2013 NFL Draft with South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore injured and likely out of action for a while. He could be taken as high as the late second/early third round. Alabama also has a solid group of mid to late round prospects that includes SS Robert Lester (Sr), ILB Nico Johnson (Sr) and TE Michael Williams (rSr). All three should be reliable contributors at the next level and will be picked on Day 3. Late round hopefuls for Alabama include DE Quinton Dial, DE Damion Square and S Carson Tinker. The Crimson Tide could have actually had an even more impressive draft class this year if ILB C.J. Mosley (Jr) and QB A.J. McCarron (rJr) hadn’t already announced that they would be returning to school for their final season of eligibility. While McCarron was probably going to be just another mid-round prospect, Mosley was being talked about as a potential late first round pick and the second-rated inside linebacker behind Te’o.

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (12-0)

While Notre Dame doesn’t have near the same size or level of draft class as Alabama, they still have a number of solid prospects led by first round picks ILB Manti Te’o (Sr) and TE Tyler Eifert (rJr). After surprising everyone last year by choosing to return for his senior season and turning down what looked to be a for-sure spot in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Manti Te’o looks to have made the right decision after leading the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season, a spot in the National Championship, a Heisman nomination and an even higher draft ranking. It’s not very often that things work out like that for a prospect when he chooses to return to school and pass on an almost guaranteed spot in the first round (just ask Matt Barkley), but Te’o’s magical season was one for the ages. The Heisman finalist was amazing this season in leading the Irish defense to a spot among the best in the sport. He racked up 103 tackles, his third straight season with 100+ tackles and was among the leaders in interceptions with seven, while adding a multitude of national awards and honors to his trophy case. Te’o is as complete a linebacker as you’ll find. He plays every down and is just as good in defending the pass as he is the run. He plays with great instincts, intensity and an extremely high football I.Q. He attacks the line of scrimmage and ball-carrier with quickness and power and possesses the ability to cover sideline to sideline never leaving him out of position. It would be a major surprise if he’s not selected among the top ten in the 2013 NFL Draft. Tyler Eifert is ranked on most draft boards as the top tight end for the 2013 NFL Draft and a possible late first round draft choice. He’s an athletic, pass-catching tight end with good speed and reliable hands. He’s able to create mismatches in the secondary and dominate defensive backs using his superior size and strength, while fearlessly navigating the middle of the field. He’s still developing as a blocker, but the 2012 Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end shouldn’t last past the early second round. After Te’o and Efiert, the Irish have a group of potential mid to late round prospects that includes DL Kapron Lewis-Moore (rSr), OC/OG Braxston Cave (rSr), RB Theo Riddick (Sr), FS Zeke Motta (Sr) and RB Cierre Wood (rJr). Lewis-Moore is a versatile defensive lineman that can be used in multiple schemes and could be selected as high as the late third round. Late-round hopefuls include OC/OG Mike Golic Jr., S Jamoris Slaughter and WR John Goodman.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL Draft Prospect Watch: Week 3

The third week of the college football season brings some excellent prospect matchups to watch beginning with an SEC slugfest between Alabama and Arkansas that could feature up to fifteen or more potential NFL draft picks including a number of possible first round selections. That will be followed by a fantastic and extremely physical head to head battle between Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o and Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell, both of which could be taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Best Head to Head Matchup to Watch: Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o vs. Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell @ Spartan Stadium

More often than not Notre Dame and Michigan State are great games and this year should be no different as both teams rank among the top 20 in the nation. The spotlight matchup to watch in this game and this weekend will be the leader of Notre Dame’s defense, ILB Manti Te’o as he tries to shut down Michigan State’s stud running back Le’Veon Bell.  This should be one of the more physical head to head battles between two draft eligible prospects all year as Te’o and Bell will line up across from one another and repeatedly meet somewhere in between all game long. Both players are earning first round buzz. Te’o ranks among the fifteen best prospects available for the 2013 NFL Draft and actually could have been a first round pick in this year’s past draft before choosing to return to Notre Dame for his senior season. He’s an intense, attacking defender with the speed and range to cover and make plays sideline to sideline. Extremely productive, experienced and with a high football I.Q., he projects as an immediate starter at the next level. In perhaps his toughest test of the season, Te’o will be tasked with stopping the Spartans’ star ball-carrier, Le’Veon Bell. A massive running back at 6’2, 245lbs, Bell is definitely a power back that has the size and ability to run over defenders, but also possesses the speed and footwork to make oncoming tacklers miss. He has displayed a good pair of hands out of the backfield as well (35 rec. for 267yds in 2011). A productive backup the past two seasons, Bell is now the star attraction on Michigan State’s offense and began this season with a breakout performance (44 carries for 210yds/6 catches for 55yds) against Boise State that has thrown his name into early Heisman Trophy discussions. While it’s still early in the season he seems to have emerged from a group of four or five backs as the second best option behind Marcus Lattimore and as a possible late first round selection. There are a number of other draft eligible prospects worth watching in this game too like Michigan State’s DE William Gholston (first-round) and CB Johnny Adams (Second/Third-round) as well as Notre Dame’s TE Tyler Eifert (second-round).

Best Game to Watch for Prospects: #1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Arkansas Razorbacks @ Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

This should have been the first real game of the year type matchup, but Arkansas’ loss to lowly Louisiana-Monroe last weekend and historical drop out of the rankings along with an injury to QB Tyler Wilson has taken some of the luster out of this matchup. Regardless this game will still feature upwards of fifteen potential 2103 draft picks between both teams. Now Alabama was featured in my Week One column, but since then a couple of their prospects have made moves on various draft boards. Most notably CB Dee Milliner has skyrocketed up the ranks into first round discussions and may now be considered the top corner available after his strong play in the first two weeks along with North Carolina State’s David Amerson looking highly overrated. Milliner is a big corner that in limited playing time has shown solid coverage skills along with good instincts and balls skills. He’s not the only one to move up draft boards as scouts have started to take more notice of QB A.J McCarron, who has looked pretty good so far this season, although he’ll be in tough to move up too far with such a good crop of quarterbacks available. It’s not all good news as RB Eddie Lacy, who some were wondering if he could make a push this season with more carries and a great year to be the third consecutive Crimson Tide running back to be selected in the first round probably won’t make that move now with freshman T.J. Yeldon looking like he’s going to be getting the bulk of the work for Alabama. That’s a shame given that he would be rushing behind three potential first round offensive linemen in OG Chance Warmack, OL Barrett Jones and RT D.J. Fluker, who give Alabama the best offensive line in the nation. For more on these three and the rest of Alabama’s top prospects check back to my Week One column.

It’s no secret that Arkansas’s main attraction is QB Tyler Wilson. The Razorbacks’ signal-caller came into this season as a potential top ten pick and Matt Barkley’s biggest competition for the top spot among quarterbacks. Wilson is certainly still in those discussions, but a concussion suffered last week could set him back and will cause him to miss at least this week’s game. Wilson possesses a strong, accurate arm along with excellent poise and toughness in the pocket. His return to full health will be closely watched by scouts throughout the rest of the season. Another Arkansas prospect whose return to full health is being closely monitored is RB Knile Davis, who suffered a season-ending broken ankle right before the start of last season. Davis looked incredible in 2010 drawing comparisons to former Razorback and current Raider RB Darren McFadden. Blessed with many of the same skills as McFadden, Davis is a physical freak built to be a feature back. He’s yet to really show that he’s fully recovered with a pair of oh-hum games to begin the year and will need to start putting together a few breakout performances to work his way back up to anywhere close to where he was at the end of 2010. Following Wilson and Davis are a group of potential mid-round selections to keep an eye on in interior offensive linemen OG Alvin Bailey and OC Travis Swanson along with WR Cobi Hamilton and OLB Alonzo Highsmith.

Written By: Mark Scott